Lina Chiam: TOC's now the mainstream, because Singaporeans say so

TOC thanks Mr Chiam See Tong and his wife Mrs Lina Chiam for gracing our event as Guests of Honor. The following is Mrs Lina Chiam’s speech at our Awards Night:

First of all, and on behalf of my husband Mr Chiam See Tong, I would like to thank TOC and its committee for allowing me to say a few words.

My first words shall be – “Thank God for New Media Today”!

I remember it was around 2006 when people started to get serious about this thing called “New Media”. I didn’t know much about it then. For all my 30 plus years of experience in politics through campaigning with Mr Chiam, we only had the traditional media. People often say that the SPH is a controlled mouthpiece of the government. I think many of you agree.

Political figures were not often depicted in very good light or sometimes the butt of jokes in political cartoons. In the early days of Mr Chiam’s political career, his forum letters were completely edited out of recognition, or never published. There was no other way for clarification when unfair commentary or errors made by the media.

I must share with you one notable incident with the now defunct New Nation Paper. It once published the following headline – “Chiam charged with illegal trespassing”, accompanied by a huge photograph of him, occupying almost the whole front page. The court had not even charged him then and the media jumped the gun. But Mr Chiam won the court case ultimately. Can you imagine the bad publicity he got before he won the court case? Mr Chiam is not the sort of person to take it lying down. He sued the paper for defamation. A settlement and an apology were agreed upon by both parties. New Nation went defunct after that. You can safely say that Mr Chiam bought down a newspaper!

Pictures of political rallies were not spared either. The pictures chosen by the newspapers showed very little support for the opposition. If one never attended the rallies, one would not have known the tremendous support the people had for Mr Chiam.

But we were never deterred or disheartened. We fought on, whatever that the traditional media. Now we see the results.

More importantly today, new media has made a difference and has somewhat taken over the position of power from traditional media like TV news and newspapers. This is quite stunning. It’s not just a Singaporean trend. It has happened to Malaysia through Malaysiakini. In the US, The Onion is another popular political satirical site that aims to bring political awareness to the common people.

What’s consistent in social media, blogs and journals is that these platforms have grown to be credible and powerful. Because we tend to believe certain online news sources over traditional newspapers. TOC is one of these sources. TOC played a significant role in the recent elections.

To me, TOC is a pioneer in the online news sector. As an NCMP for Singapore, I would like to thank the management of TOC – Ravi Philemon, Joshua Chiang, Siew Kum Hong, and Leong Sze Hian – for their extraordinary service rendered to Singaporeans. Thank you for your tenacity and commitment to drive the growth of TOC. Should the Opposition take power one day, I will definitely recommend the TOC management for the National Day awards such as the PBM!

Past editors also played an important part in the journey TOC took. Donaldson Tan and Andrew Loh were outstanding thought leaders who gave up a part of their lives for the success of TOC. Thank you Andrew and Donaldson!

I also would like to thank Andrea, a Potong Pasir resident for her heart-warming story published recently in TOC about Potong Pasir and Mr Chiam. And my thanks also, to the many volunteer who have contributed to TOC over the years without expecting a cent in return. I hope more Singaporeans will stand up and extend their hand of help to grow TOC, and to help budding journalists enhance transparency and accountability in Singapore.

Moving forward, I think it would be unjust to call TOC the “New Media”. This is the new normal. REACH should step side now. Entities like TOC will no longer be alternative voices or news sources. They are now the mainstream because Singaporeans say so.

Majulah Singapura!

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